San Saba County
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San Saba County

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2003 | INDIE

Austin, Texas, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2003
Band Alternative Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Austin Chronicle - "Fifth" (3.5 of 4 stars)"

Not being prolific can mean different things. For San Saba County, it results in the best songs available. It also translates into only the most devout followers keeping up with the homegrown quartet since it's been four years between Broken Record and Fifth, meaning it's almost like starting over. And yet the sound that frontman John Saba and company make will be instantly familiar to fans of R.E.M. and the multitude of acts that followed in their sneaker prints. San Saba County started off much more, but this time they make indie rock that gleams with simple beats, guitars that soar and jangle, and crystalline harmonies. The XTC-like bop of "Ides of March" and the ghostly, anthemic "Phoenix" are two sides of what they do. At nine vinyl tracks, Fifth spins brief, but this band deserves the same national audience that Okkervil River and Shearwater enjoy.

***.5 - Austin Chronicle

"KUTX (Austin NPR) 98.9 FM"

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the boys in San Saba County, but they’re finally back with a new record titled Fifth. Perhaps it’s a nod towards Big Star, or maybe its a declaration of the Austin group’s undeniable longevity. Since their beginnings in the early 2000’s, San Saba County have gone through a few transformations. Originally drawing from the spring of alt-country heroes like Gram Parsons and the Silver Jews on their debut record East Does It, but like their forefathers, they’ve never been comfortable staying in the same place too long. Check out their latest sound in their Studio 1A session at the bottom of the page, or go see their album release show at Lambert’s this Friday, August 26th - KUTX

"Last Week's Album - San Saba County's "Fifth""

“, Wilco and Guided By Voices meet in the middle of Texas to down a fifth of whisky.” (4 out of 5) - Last Week's Album

"Austin Chronicle - Recommends"

"Fifth... captures the local foursome in peak form, plying melodic roots-rockers that punch up classic riffs with a power-pop surge and John Saba’s impeccable songwriting." - Doug Freeman, Austin Chronicle - Austin Chronicle

"Pretty Sure - San Saba County (Fifth 2016)"

"Smart lyrics, chugging rhythm, tight playing; a winner through and through. Looking forward to spending more time with the album. I'm pretty sure it'll be worth the effort." - Culture Catch

"Austin Chronicle - Recommends"

Austin’s inflamed collegiate pop troupe Silver Scooter summons the Nineties with a rare reunion gig. The Other Palm Springs (’97) still resonates on guitarist/vocalist Scott Garred’s emotive songs and John Hunt’s feral New Order bass, while drummer Tom Hudson and latter-day bassist Tyler Mallory blend hints of twang into Badfinger-influenced roots-pop for San Saba County, who take the mid-slot. The now-San Francisco-based Garred continues to plumb heart-sleeved vulnerability with his solo alter ego, Super XX Man. – Greg Beet - Austin Chronicle

"NPR - All Songs Considered - SXSW 2010 Preview"

Next week, NPR Music heads to Austin, Texas, to blog, broadcast and webcast nearly a dozen live concerts from this year's South by Southwest music festival. Spoon headlines NPR Music's opening-night showcase on March 17, with additional performances by Broken Bells, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, The Walkmen and Visqueen. Our live concert webcasts continue March 18, with Sleigh Bells, Surfer Blood, Local Natives, Brooklyn Rider, G-Side and Smith Westerns. But that's just the tip of a very large iceberg, as the NPR Music team spreads out across Austin in search of great musical discoveries.

On this edition of the show, host Bob Boilen chats with NPR Monitor Mix blogger Carrie Brownstein, All Songs Considered producer Robin Hilton and NPR Music editor Stephen Thompson about some of the artists they discovered, including...San Saba County, The Devil And Marie. - NPR

"The Good Music Club"

Featured artist on the Good Music Club. - The Good Music Club

"Review: Broken Record"

San Saba County plays on the outskirts of, and while retaining a distinctly rootsy orientation, Broken Record bends toward mellower indie rock. The local quintet's first release in four years, this single-sided 12-inch EP perfectly melds to its vinyl warmth, with credit going to Danny Reisch's production and Erik Wofford's mixing. The evolution appears most evident in the recut "As You Like It," closing 2008's ... Though Cheating Was Never an Option with a howling drawl and guitar surge, and now delivered with a chiming, almost Britpop feel. "E-Candle" opens behind a restrained rhythm, tumbling guitar, and keyboard lines that finally slide together into an elegant crescendo, while "Here" hits with more direct, poppier progressions. "Remiss" strikes the most direct correlation, but finale "Happy Daze" dazzles in its beautifully Wilco-esque nostalgic angst and subtle pacing. The EP only wants for more. - Austin Chronicle

"KUT's Song of the Day: Here"

When we Central Texans hear the name San Saba County, we might think of dry, sleepy, sun-drenched vistas full of gently swaying cedar trees and the Colorado lazily winding its way through the Hill Country. While some of that imagery may apply to Austin alt-country quintet San Saba County, the band adds a little downtown indie sheen to their rootsy sound.

San Saba County the band began its life as a rough-and-tumble country combo headed by singer-songwriter John Saba and his high school buddy Chris Wellington. As the years went by the band shifted–in sound and membership. The more jagged edges of the band’s music were smoothed out as they injected a bit more “alt” into their alt-country à la Wilco. Today Saba and Wellington are joined by bassist Tyler Mallory, drummer Tom Hudson and Carlos Orozco on keys. San Saba County issued their first album Easy Does It back in 2004 which they followed up with 2006's It’s Not The Fall That Hurts and 2008's …Though Cheating Was Never An Option. This week San Saba County is back with a brand-new album titled Broken Record, and we’ve got a selection as today’s song of the day.

“Here” is perhaps the best introduction to the band. The gently (but purposefully) strummed acoustic that opens the song betrays some of San Saba County’s country-rock roots. But as soon as the band kicks in you know that this is something very different, and much more interesting. The Mellotron keyboard sounds give it a slight 60s British psych flavor and the loud, bouncy bass and punchy drumming are pure power-pop. It’s a tune that’s as at home in the Hill Country as it is at your local indie-rock club–and in fact, you can catch San Saba County at their record release show this Friday at the ND. - KUT 90.5 FM

"Last Week's Album -- REVIEW: Broken Record by San Saba County"

Named after a tiny county found smack dab in the middle of Texas, San Saba County makes music centered on alt country and indie rock. Their three previous releases focused more on the former, but a new rhythm section has recently drawn the band closer to roots rock. Broken Record finds Tom Hudson (drums), Tyler Mallory (bass, vocals), Carlos Orozco (keys, vocals), John Saba (vocals, guitar) and Chris Wellington (guitar, vocals) banging out 5 tracks that epitomize the group’s evolving yet mature sound. And don’t be fooled by the EP’s ironic name – this release will keep you guessing at every turn.

Crisp acoustic strums open “E-Candle” as Saba wonders “Are things the way they ought to be / Or are things just what they are?” A few words later, the drums, organ, bass and guitar all join in to build a pensive track that sounds like The Decemberists jamming with Fleet Foxes in a Lone Star honkytonk. Wellington adds the track’s quick-and-catchy guitar hook, and the whole band wails along in moody, harmonized unison like flames flickering in the night. Behind their voices, the band rocks away, slow-building to a crescendo that’s sneakily superb.

“Here” begins with a staccato acoustic guitar and Saba’s megaphone vocals over a subtle organ. Rollicking bass, angular lead guitar and popping drums (along with a few well-placed handclaps) get the song up and at ‘em. “I know you ordered the deluxe / But all they had in stock was just us” Saba croons like a man who’s not sorry for being sorry. After that quip, San Saba County treats you to a surprise, drum-driven crescendo that keeps you coming back for more.

“As You Like It (Alt. Version)” exemplifies the sonic shift the band is making. Compare it to the version from “….Though Cheating Was Never an Option,” and you might mistake it for a cover, were it not for Saba’s thoughtful delivery. He’s a bit calmer and cooler here, as is the rest of the band – the indie rock guitar picking, the sparse keyboard accents, the snappy double-beat drums. Most notably, the lush harmonies elevate this one to a whole new sound space.

“Remiss” opens strong – harmonies, guitars, organ and drums all pounding away an ode to a friend who’s been dumped. Backed by southern-fried Beach Boys orchestration, Saba sings “An ember from a long-forgotten flame / Strengthened by the breath of what’s her name?” Wellington shreds the guitar with country stylings that linger like a broken-hearted memory, until a slow breakdown appropriately ends the track sooner than you’d like.

“Happy Daze” lets you down easy. It opens all drums and bass and keys, sounding like an 80s prom slow dance. Saba’s echoed vocals lull you into longing for days gone by – “Happy daze, I wish you weren’t so far away / After 30 years, a century, you brought a child from his knees” – and Wellington’s shoegaze guitar accents punctuate the mood. Then, out of nowhere, the whole band snaps out of the trance and rocks it. As Hudson beats the drums and Orozco punches the keys, you realize what a jolting awakening growing up can be. Then the song quickly fades away like a fever dream you thought was real.

Though Broken Record represents new territory for San Saba County, the band sounds surprisingly comfortable in these tunes. They’ve clearly taken the time to find their groove, and even updated the SSC staple “As You Like It” accordingly. Some fans may miss the backwoods bent that banjo and accordion once added, but longtime listeners will hear the country backbone that continues to steer the band. Plus, the fresh drums, bass and harmonies add a whole new layer to the group’s distinct blend of alt country and indie rock. Pay attention to the details, and you’ll find San Saba County is anything but a one-horse town. - Last Week's Album

"Austin Music Minute - KUT 90.5 FM"

You wouldn’t recognize local band San Saba County if you compared them to the band they started out as in 2003. It was more of a duo, with songwriter and vocalist John Saba and his longtime friend Chris Wellington trading rough-edged country riffs before moving into alt.-country territory in the Uncle Tupelo/Wilco vein. And the evolution continued throughout their first full-length Easy Does It (2004), their follow-up It’s Not The Fall That Hurts (2006), and the slightly more poppy …Though Cheating Was Never An Option (2008).

The direction shifted dramatically with the recent addition of bassist Tyler Mallory, drummer Tom Hudson and keyboardist Carlos Orozco. Although they haven’t completely moved away from their country-rock roots, there’s a bouncier, janglier (Is that a word? It should be…) power pop/psych pop dynamic on the band’s latest release, Broken Record. Produced at Good Dannys and Cacophony Recorders, with help from What Made Milwaukee Famous‘ frontman Michael Kingcaid, the album is being released exclusively on vinyl, although tracks are available online.

You can pick up some of this sweet vinyl at San Saba County’s release show tonight at The ND, located at E. 5th St. and Brushy St. It’s a tasty triple bill with The Decade Show and My Golden Calf. Doors open at 9 p.m., and the music starts at 9:30 p.m. Recommended. - KUT 90.5 FM

"San Saba County Live In-Studio Radio Performance -= KUT 90.5 FM"

Austin’s reputation for fielding popular indie-rock groups often overshadows it’s status as a longrunning hotbed for alternative country music. San Saba County continues Austin’s rich tradition of pushing country music’s boundaries by infusing standard themes of loss and heartache with punchy guitar chords, harmonies, and rhythms you’d find in the best indie rock bands. If you like what you hear here on the radio you can catch San Saba County in the flesh at the ND Austin August 31st. Be sure to KUT to hear San Saba County live in Studio 1a performing for KUT host Jay Trachtenberg. - KUT 90.5 FM

"San Saba County Interview (March 2010)"

San Saba County are an Austin-based band made up of five men whose versatility when dealing with their musical instruments is matched only by their eclectic style. Having already put out three records and now working on more, the group is made up of veteran musicians whose style changes by the song from basic country to alt-country to indie-rock. In anticipation of their upcoming SXSW appearance, Spinner talked to John Saba about his band, his music and the music he listens to for inspiration. - Spinner

"CD Review: Easy Does it"

“The urban cowboy circa
2004: exhausted, restless, romantic, wasted. Easygoing acoustic record with
surprising bite.” - Austin Chronicle

"POP Matters (Oct 2006)"

Where Austin-based San Saba County’s 2004 debut, Easy Does It had its roots firmly planted in the alt-country soil of the Lone Star State, their follow-up It’s Not the Fall That Hurts proves to be a lot like the Texas desert—a far more expansive proposition. The traditional heartbeat of the band can still be heard on tunes ranging from the impressive banjo-led crooner “Psalm 102” to the country-blues of “Oh, And One More Thing”, which resonates with a perfect melancholy pedal steel provided by special guest Bill McCullough. However, this time it’s all massaged into life by the swirl and swoop of excellent brooding indie rock guitar as on the opener “More Than Me” and the Byrds ‘68-era jangling country-rock of “New Morning”. Elsewhere, touches of Townes Van Zandt are laced together with a ‘60s vibe that continues to make its presence felt through the evocation of Dylan on “Nothin’ Like the Homesick Blues” and the Stones-inspired all-out garage rocker “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”. Were Gram Parsons still alive, he would surely approve of these innovative alt-country-rockers. - Alan Brown

"Austin Music Awards"

San Saba County voted in top (10) Best Roots-Rock Bands in Austin. - Austin Chronicle


Well shut our mouths and call us Uncle Tupelo! Austin roughnecks San Saba County have released a stellar new LP proving that Alt-Country is not only alive and well, it's rummaging through your liquor cabinets and throwing up on your cat. It's Not The Fall That Hurts is an ambitious bounty, bursting at the seams with great tracks. Released on India Records, the San Saba boys (and girl?) have crafted what is a worthy addition to the lexicon of subverted twang.

If anyone compares them to Son Volt, they've obviously not heard the whole album. Granted, some of the vocals are reminiscent of Jay Farrar's put-Old-Yeller-down croon, but there's an underlying "damn the torpedoes" craftsmanship that keeps the album anchored in pleasing pop. "More Than Me" kicks the disc off with panache, more Wrens than rotgut. It doesn't take long, though, to get back to their roots. "Psalm 102" is the best song Farrar never wrote, while "New Morning" is jangle-pop to the max. Two interludes punctuate the album, but the other eleven full-length tracks never lose steam, even when things switch gears to Classic Country as on "Oh, And One More Thing..." and "Hell to Pay". One is like weeping over a half-consumed pint of Shiner, while the other is like asking that cute redhead with the space between her teeth to two-step. And there ain't nothing wrong with neither of them situations.

Mirroring their studio proclivities, San Saba County plays fast and loose with their live shows. That said, you should catch them before they're selling out shows in Chicago and you've missed your chance. Mozey on over to their Myspace and peruse their wares. Then, come Thursday, you can catch them at either their Waterloo Records in-store or the Continental Club later on. Hell, if you really want, you can saddle up and go to both. On the other hand, if you can't make it to either, turn on KUT 90.5 at noon on Thursday and hear their live set in the comfort of your own home. - Joshua Huck

"Shiner Top Ten"

1. Butch Hancock - War and Peace
2. Bob Schneider - the Californian
3. Ghostland Observatory - Paparazzi Lightning
4. Shawn Colvin - These Four Walls
5. San Saba County - It's Not the Fall That Hurts
6. Ben Kweller - Ben Kweller
7. Grupo Fantasma - Comes Alive
8. Carrie Rodriguez - Seven Angels on a Bicycle
9. Slaid Cleaves - Unsung
10. Ray Whlie Hubbard - Snake Farm
- Week of Oct. 16, 2006

"Popmatters: CD Review (March 9, 2009)"

In 2006, San Saba County got innovative with their second album, It’s Not the Fall That Hurts, by effortlessly entwining the brooding sounds of ‘80s indie rock around their country-music roots. Fast-forward two years, and with the template set, the Austin-based quartet have returned with more of what frontman John Saba likes to describe as “post-alt-country.” This time around, however, the music is infinitely bleaker. ... Though Cheating Was Never an Option is a bracing ride of despair that retells tales of heartache and loneliness. Highlights are powered by foot-to-the floor drums and droning guitar that conjure up images of the Pastels in stetsons as on the atmospheric country-psych of “5th Time Around” and the hallucinatory “Summer Solstice”. - Alan Brown

"Twangville: CD Review (Feb 2009)"

To be described as an “Austin-based Alt -Country band” or an “Austin-based Indie band” is to be lumped into monikers that have become somewhat cliched in many ways. Thanks mainly to the capital city’s widely regarded reputation as a thriving home to musicians of all kinds, many bands that merely fit neatly into a single genre can get lost in the crowd. One of the ways a band can set itself apart is by effectively carving out a niche with a sound that seemingly combines these oft-used elements of both the Indie realm as well as that of the Alt-Country realm.

Austin’s San Saba County has indeed done that. Employing a sonic that lead singer John Saba describes as “Post-Alt-Country“, SSB’c latest offering, …Though Cheating Was Never an Option (Wagonmaker Records), dares to venture away from the more traditional “Alt” sounds of their previous releases and we are rewarded for their decision to splinter from what many doomsday prophets lazily identify as a dying genre. According to Saba, Cheating was possibly destined for a double album treatment, with the song’s vibe being the line of demarcation. Ultimately, that plan was not to see the light of day and it’s for the best as the record retains a tight, focused group of cuts without worrying about what goes where.

The first two tracks of the album, “The Devil & Marie” and “5th Time Around” feature synth effects that would likely not see the light of day on a Hank III disc and favor a more rocking sound. Conversely, the banjo that is featured in “Winter Solstice” along with the sweet, sad and lonely cries of the pedal steel in “Train Song” would likely never see the myspace page of White Denim or Spoon. The production is often-times lush, but that never drowns out the Jay Farrar-like vocals of Saba, whose vocal is well-suited for this task.

…Though Cheating Was Never an Option may be the best “Post-Indie-Alt-Country-Roots-Rock” record that makes you forget why you were even wondering what to call them. - Twangville

"Austin Chronicle's 2008 best of picks"

Top 10 Local Alt of 2008
1) San Saba County, ... Though Cheating Was Never an Option (Wagonmaker)
2) The Lovely Sparrows, Bury the Cynics (Abandoned Love)
3) Ariel Abshire, Exclamation Love (Darla)
4) Horse + Donkey, Dreams
5) Warren Hood (Good Dinner)
6) Kacy Crowley, Cave (Stable)
7) Joe Ely & Joel Guzman, Live Cactus! (Rack 'Em)
8) Danny Schmidt, Little Grey Sheep (Waterbug)
9) South Austin Jug Band, Strange Invitation
10) Broken Teeth, Electric (Tex-Tone) - Austin Chronicle

"Austin Chronicle CD Rev. (Nov 2008)"

Austin's finally given birth to the who's next on its songwriter roots trail paved by kitchen-sink bands such as Shearwater, Okkervil River, and Li'l Cap'n Travis. With its third disc, ... Though Cheating Was Never an Option, San Saba County takes a giant step forward while never leaving its roots behind. "Nothing's quite right here," singer John Saba intones on "Stale House," and the lyric permeates the proceedings perfectly. One's never sure where the music will wind, whether it's mixing the forlorn with an incessant chug on "Train Song" – San Saba County obviously still kneels before the altar of Gram Parsons – or the banjo-led "Winter Solstice" incorporating a deep Southwestern twang like Calexico. might be all but dead, but San Saba County lends it a breath of new life that's as surprising and tuneful as anything you'll hear locally or otherwise this year. - Austin Chronicle (Jim Caligiuri)

"CD Review It's Not the Fall That Hurts"

The Arkansas travelers, guilt-racked
Catholics, and impatient brides-to-be of these rural goth missives shoulder enough grief to make a feller pine for simpler days back in the big city...

- Chris Gray
- The Austin Chronicle


Fifth (expected release Dec. 2015)

Broken Record (2012)

...Though Cheating Was Never an Option (2008)

It's Not the Fall that Hurts (2006)

Easy Does it (2004)



San Saba County started out as a straight garage-country group, the type that could only come from Austin, Texas: equally comfortable playing the Continental Club and twenty-something house parties with angular po-mo groups with romulan haircuts. (Singer/songwriter John Saba and his Jesuit high school (Dallas) classmate, Chris Wellington, even shared their first drummer and then guitarist-turned-bass player with Black Lipstick). Now anchored by the unshakable, erstwhile, Silver Scooter (and Western Keys) rhythm section of Tom "New Drums" Hudson and Tyler "Fuzz Face" Mallory, the band is truly senior varsity.  Over a decade the band has grown into their own.

2016 marks the year of the band's most-recent album release, an LP titled "Fifth" (release date Aug. 23, 2016).  A year (or two) in the making, this album is a sonic-pinnacle,  forged from 1960's Texas garage-rock, cosmic-country and early-southern R.E.M.  The result is both something of its age and universal, the familiar, unfamiliar – rootsie-indie-rock. It's music for people who don't care about genres anymore, so long as the guitars are loud and the drums pound a dancing beat.

Over a decade ago, the band released its first album, "Easy Does It” (2004), a future classic of country songcraft.  It could have easily been made by the International Submarine Band (Gram Parsons) if it didn't come out on CD in the 21st century.

And, like their forebears (Wilco, Gram Parsons, R.E.M. and The Silver Jews), San Saba never looked back. Each record pushed into something new. "It's Not the Fall that Hurts" (2006) added an obsidian edge and indie fuzz to the perennial "break-up" album. "…Though Cheating was Never Option" (2008) bended the country ballad into a mobius strip of moody non-refrains.

"Broken Record" (2012) (recorded, engineered and produced by Danny Reisch (Good Danny's), Mastered by Erik Wofford (Cacophony Recorders), and with assistance from Michael Kingcaid (What Made Milwaukee Famous)) represented a milestone in the band's career.  Like 1966 defines 60's rock, "Broken Record" -- the band's fourth album -- trademarks San Saba's sound.    

Through it all, are the songs – honest, witty, and well-crafted -- tough as blue jeans and catchy as new slang. These are the songs forged in the old sense of the word – they lend your feet to dance or your lips to fight (or make-out). Spoon or Jimmie Dale Gilmore may someday reach into their bag and try to make one of these hymns their own. But like the band’s predecessors, the essence will always be remembered sounding best as performed jumping off the hardwood floors of an East Austin crash pad.

“When we Central Texans hear the name San Saba County, we might think of dry, sleepy, sun-drenched vistas full of gently swaying cedar trees and the Colorado lazily winding its way through the Hill Country. While some of that imagery may apply to Austin alt-country quintet San Saba County, the band adds a little downtown indie sheen to their rootsy sound.”

Laurie Gallardo, KUT 90.5 FM promotion of San Saba County's - Broken Record (2012)

“Austin's finally given birth to the who's next on its songwriter roots trail paved by kitchen-sink bands such as Shearwater, Okkervil River, and Li'l Cap'n Travis…” Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle.

San Saba County’s “The Devil and Marie” featured by Stephen Thompson on NPR’s “All Songs Considered: 2010 SXSW Preview Show.”

Band Members